The development of laser dentistry is often associated with the treatment of gum disease. The procedure differs from traditional methods of surgery that make physical contact with the patient. Laser gum therapy carries both risks and benefits, and its effectiveness depends on each individual's specific case.
Whereas traditional dentistry makes use of a rotary tool with different mechanisms to treat teeth and gums, laser treatment eliminates the need for any physical contact. In addition, there is no need for water to clean out debris during a procedure.
The laser device can be specialized to carry out a range of functions, from bleaching to surgery. In all cases, the patient wears protective glasses to protect his eyes from the powerful beams. Depending on which part of the mouth or teeth is being treated, the laser is altered to the appropriate wavelength. Since different areas respond to specific wavelengths, this fine tuning allows the dentist to target the affected area without damaging other areas.
Laser surgery offers certain benefits for the patient. According to Dr. David Hornbrook, a San Diego cosmetic dentist, there is less need for anesthesia. The American Academy of Periodontology also states that when laser treatment is successful, there is less bleeding and swelling experienced by the patient during and after surgery. Robert J. Schulhof from the Centers for Dental Medicine cites recent research that shows how laser treatment for gum disease can also lower the risk of diabetes, as well as reduce the chances of premature birth in pregnant women.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, there is no conclusive evidence that laser therapy is superior to traditional methods of dental surgery. The risks that come with laser gum treatment primarily lie in the wavelength and power levels of the laser. If these are inappropriately applied, they can cause damage to gum tissue.
Laser treatment is not appropriate for all patients who have gum disease. Lynn Dental Care states that ideal candidates have gum pockets that are greater than 5 mm, which indicates more severe gum disease due to a greater loss of bone support. Patients with gum pockets less than 5 mm are classified as having Class 1 "superficial gingivitis" and should not seek laser treatment.
Although laser gum treatment typically costs the same as traditional surgery, many insurance plans only cover part of this expense. Depending on the extent of laser treatment required, prices can range from $500 to $2,000. A patient should discuss payment options with her insurance company and dental office before treatment.